VA scandal: Internal investigations neglected whistleblower concerns

Adding to the Department of Veterans Affairs' woes, federal investigators this week found a suburban Chicago VA facility neglected whistleblower reports that supervisors were covering up delays in care, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In 2011, Germaine Clarno reported Hines VA Hospital workers were "zeroing out" patient wait times and disguising care delays by avoiding using the hospital's electronic scheduling system, the newspaper reported. The findings echo the initial flashpoint of the VA scandal, the 2014 revelation that Phoenix VA staff kept a "secret waitlist" to conceal long delays in care.

In a report to the White House and Congress, U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner wrote that the an inspection by the VA's inspector general was overly narrow and neglected the issue of wait times.

Lerner paralleled the Hines investigation with another investigation into claims of long wait times for mental health providers affecting 2,700 veterans at Shreveport, Louisiana's Overton Brooks Medical Center. The Overton Brooks investigation failed to investigate those claims, and simply concluded that a spreadsheet relating to mental health access was not "secret."

Meanwhile in other VA news, the VA fired Jack Hetrick, the head of its Ohio-based regional network and suspended Barbara Temeck, M.D., acting chief of staff at the Cincinnati VA hospital, with a possible federal criminal investigation to come, according to The Washington Post. Hetrick's ouster came in the wake of a probe into the facility's management and care quality that found misconduct in prescriptions and other care provided by Temeck.

To learn more:
- check out the report (.pdf)
- here's the Tribune article
- read the Post article